MANÉ STAYS SHINING AS LIVERPOOL OUTSHINE WEST BROM
Previous matches have left us with very interesting talking points but one that is almost the recurring decimal of all our reviews is Sadio Mane’s consistency and firm grasp on Kop cult-hero status, he really has integrated seamlessly into Klopp’s 11 with not just brilliant but consistent performances throughout the season and today’s was no different as Liverpool took on West Brom, a tricky customer that the Reds have failed to conquer in their last 3 meeting which all ended in draws.
But this was to be their first encounter with Klopp’s 4-3-3 with Loris Karius between the sticks; Milner, Lovren, Matip, and Clyne giving him cover; Emre Can, Henderson, and Lallana holding the fort in the middle of the park; and our strike-force of Coutinho, Firmino, and Mane looking to stick the knife where it hurts against West Brom’s 11’s possession formation of 4-1-4-1 with Rondon as their lone-striker; Phillips, Fletcher, Chadli, and McClean looking to put pressure on our final third; Claudio Yaqoob up for mopping up balls before it gets to the back four of Dawson, McAuley, Olsson, and Nyom; with the experienced Ben Foster manning their goal-post for what promised to be another thrilling EPL encounter fresh off the international break.
The Reds wasted no time in taking the fight straight to West Brom’s half with the kind of fluid build-ups and direct passing that has made this Liverpool side almost impossible to live with when they shift gears up so early in matches creating chance after chance, drowning their opponents in a sea of Red before they even settle down but this was a Bromwich side that’s particularly well versed in set pieces, a hallmark of Tony Pulis tutelage, so giving away corners was definitely not in our best interest – all the more reason to pitch camp at West Brom’s final third, which they did with relative ease but curiously though as the Reds kept sending high balls to Coutinho knowing how imposing Olsson is and how comfortably he’d take such balls off the Brazilian with relative ease. Gladly we got off that carriage and resumed the direct passing but cautiously containing Pulis’ men when they threatened a break. The Kop got a little impatient though applauding our fine use of the flanks to create chances but a stubborn Bromwich side seemed resolute in defending our attempts.
Something special was needed and it came in the 21st minute as a the Reds executed one of the most impressive systematic breakdowns of any robust defense you’d ever see with the sublime attack that led to Coutinho creatively pulling off a dummy, taking defenders off Lallana’s pass that released Firmino down the left who sent a perfectly measured cross in for Mane to get the right foot finish in leaving Ben Foster with no chance. 1-0!!!!
Liverpool created chances before that goal but something about that first goal set off an inferno in our players as they looked to wash away West Brom’s resistance with a typhoon of Red rain with attacks coming from all corners, a dangerous chance almost every 3 minutes but it took up to the 35th minute to get the 2-goal cushion, our fiery assaults clearly left Darren Fletcher a bit frazzled and apparently error-prone as he sent a bouncy back-pass to Ben Foster, not the brightest of choices with the Red army at your door with unhealthy designs on their mind. Foster made a little mess of his clearance and like the deer that strays from the herd for a millisecond gets pounced on by hunting lions, Klopp’s triple threat wasted absolutely no time in making him regret his cock-up as Mane got a hold of the ball, sent it to Coutinho who cut inside of his man and fired home Liverpool’s second of the evening. 2-0!!
The Reds slowed it down just before the halftime whistle, confidently too with Tony Pulis’ men satisfied with keeping the ball in the middle as Klopp’s men didn’t work too hard to stave off any more attacks as the match official signaled for the break leaving the visitors with a monumental uphill climb at the change of ends.
Liverpool’s start in the second half really evoked confidence in the home fans as attack after attack was greeted with cheers from the stands most notable the 58th minute effort when a perfectly aimed Coutinhofreekick found Lovren whose resulting header, seemed destined for the top corner, drew out an outstanding save from the Bromvich’s goalie who rose to the occasion, stopping the goal with nice save. Not allowing Ben Foster rest on his recent laurels, the Reds made his defense earn a healthy pound just two minutes after that wonderful save as Coutinho found room on the right flank to race into the visitor’s final third, got past his man and, just spoiled for choice really, laid the ball to Emre Can for the finish job but a heroic block from Olsson kept the scores at 2-0.
Notwithstanding Liverpool’s excellent play, the game was never fully killed off at 2-0 and some jumbled defending from a corner late on allowed McAuley to pull one back for the visitors who had barely had a sniff at goal until that point.
It made for a tense final few minutes and as Klopp said in his post-match press conference, had Liverpool thrown away their victory it would have been “a joke”. Ultimately the scoreline should have been more emphatic, but Klopp’s side did enough to dig in and hold on for a crucial three points- even more important given Arsenal and Spurs both dropped points this weekend.
MAN OF THE MATCH: I pretty much gave away our MotM award at the start of this review – SadioMane with a goal, an assist, and 90 minutes persistent terrorizing of West Brom’s defenses sees him taking the MotM for another weekend.